Jones wants to see one of his quarterbacks emerge as the type of “alpha male” who can lead an offense. Senior Justin Worley, redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson and sophomores Joshua Dobbs and Nathan Peterman will get a chance to show that trait Saturday in the Orange & White Game.
“That’s what I’m waiting for, someone to take hold, take grasp and say, ‘I am the quarterback of Tennessee,’“ Jones said. “You have to earn that right every single day. You have to bring it every single day. You have to have tremendous juice and energy to play that position because they feed off of you. I think that’s what makes Johnny Manziel so special. Johnny Manziel brings it every single day.”
Worley and Ferguson got more work than Dobbs and Peterman at a practice last weekend that included scrimmage situations. Jones has said he expects the competition to continue into training camp as the Vols prepare for their Aug. 31 season opener with Utah State.
Worley started seven games last season before undergoing season-ending thumb surgery. Dobbs started the final four games of the season and Peterman made one start. Ferguson redshirted last year and had a leg injury that limited him for much of the season.
Jones wants to see more from all his quarterbacks. Jones said he was disappointed in how the quarterbacks had performed during Thursday’s practice. He said Ferguson showed the most leadership of the four on that particular day, “but not to our standard by which we’re going to play quarterback here at Tennessee.”
“Playing quarterback at the University of Tennessee is not a sometime thing,” Jones said. “It’s an all-the-time thing.”
Jones is looking forward to seeing how these quarterbacks fare Saturday while playing front of tens of thousands of fans at Neyland Stadium. Last year’s Orange & White Game drew a crowd of 61,076.
“It’s another evaluation tool,” Jones said. “Great, great crowd in the stands. Who can perform our offense the way we want it performed? (Who has) the command presence, owning the line of scrimmage, your voice controlling the cadence, getting us into the right plays, making great decisions with the football and having the genuine swagger which we talk about, walking out there and having a command presence that I’m the quarterback of this football team.”
Rather than dividing Tennessee’s roster into two separate teams, the Orange & White Game will pit the offense against the defense. Each unit will get points for various achievements over the course of the game. The winning side will get to eat a steak dinner on china while the loser gets hot dogs and beans on paper plates. The event will feature one-on-one matchups and individual drills as well as actual game situations.
At halftime of the Orange & White Game, an alumni flag football game will take place at Neyland Stadium. The flag football game is expected to feature at least 75 former Tennessee players, including Pro Bowl selections Leonard Little and Al Wilson plus ex-NFL receivers Peerless Price and Donte Stallworth. The most valuable player of the alumni game will receive a trophy that’s 13 feet, 9 inches high.
“Don’t ask me how they’re going to get it home,” Jones said. “That’s their problem.”